Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 6: How many persons are there in the Godhead?
Answer: There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.
The doctrine of the Trinity, though one of the essential, foundational doctrines of the Christian faith, often is overlooked because it’s too hard or is “a piece of theological lumber that we can get on very happily without.” However, as Packer points out, the apostle John does not shy away from the plurality of the Triune God throughout his gospel. As the Shorter Catechism also teaches, Scripture as a whole bears witness to the plurality and oneness of God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
The three persons of the Trinity work together in relationship: the Son doing the will of the Father, and the Spirit doing the will of the Father and the Son. This does not mean they are unequal; all their works are important. The Holy Spirit, as Comforter, has been sent to us to continue Christ’s ministry to his chosen people. “If therefore, the ministry of Christ the Comforter was important, the ministry of the Holy Ghost the Comforter can scarcely be less important.”
But even though the work of the Spirit is of high import, Packer laments the fact that His work is largely ignored in the church today. In fact, the Holy Spirit’s work is so vital to the church that without the work of the Spirit, “there would be no gospel, no faith, no church, no Christianity in the world at all.” In my own experiences, I’ve heard sermons or discussions on sanctification, church growth, discipleship, faith, and other topics which sadly had absolutely no mention of the Holy Spirit! How such neglect of the Spirit’s work dishonors Him!
Praise God for sending His Holy Spirit to preserve, protect, and grow His church. The fledgling church came under countless ruthless attacks, but “because Christ sent the Holy Spirit to them, to teach them all truth and so save them from all error, to remind them of what they had been taught already, and to reveal to them the rest of what their Lord meant them to learn,” the church and the church fathers were prevented from “rapidly being reduced to a twisted, garbled, hopeless muddle.” Similarly, Christ has continued to save a remnant of His people through the ages by the Holy Spirit.
I have been guilty so many times for taking the powerful, indelible work of the Holy Spirit for granted. May we all pray for strength, wisdom, and grace to heed Packer’s challenge to recognize and rely on the Spirit’s work; to acknowledge the authority of the Scriptures and the Spirit’s illumination and application of them; to apply the Scriptures’ authority to our lives and live by the Word of God; and to remember that the Holy Spirit’s work alone can authenticate our witness in spreading the good news of the gospel, thus forgoing “the cleverness of human gimmicks.” In closing, Packer says,
“Can we doubt that the present barrenness of the church’s life is God’s judgment on us for the way in which we have dishonored the Holy Spirit? And, in that case, what hope have we of its removal till we learn in our thinking and our praying and our practice to honor the Holy Spirit?”